Cre­ate a unique Class 31

Fu­elled by nos­tal­gia (and, per­haps, feel­ing the cold snap) Ge­orge Dent recre­ates one of the early elec­tric train heat­ing-equipped Class 31/4s.

Model Rail (UK) - - Contents -

Rush home from school. Get changed. Scoff a cou­ple of bis­cuits. Grab boots, gloves and a foot­ball. Sprint over to the play­ing field. Stand in goal as the whis­tle blows. Then lis­ten out for the sound of a ‘31’. Luck­ily, the foot­ball pitch bor­dered the rail­way and, at five-to and five-past ev­ery hour, a Class 31/4-hauled trans-pen­nine ser­vice would rum­ble past. If I was at the right end of the pitch, I’d sneak­ily re­move the pen from my sock and scrib­ble the num­bers on the back of my gloves – the perks of be­ing a ‘goalie’! In­tro­duced in the mid-1980s, th­ese sec­ondary ex­presses pro­vided wel­come re­lief on the oth­er­wise Dmu-only Cheshire Lines route be­tween Liverpool and Manch­ester. Alas, the ex­cite­ment was rel­a­tively short-lived, with new ‘Su­per Sprinter’ units tak­ing over in the early 1990s. My old ‘Abc’ from 1989 shows well over three quar­ters of the 69 Class 31/4s un­der­lined, which is not bad con­sid­er­ing that th­ese trains had only been run­ning for a cou­ple of years. The ‘31/4s’ had been con­verted orig­i­nally in the 1970s, as more elec­tri­cally heated, air-braked pas­sen­ger stock en­tered traf­fic. While the ‘31s’ were never blessed with high speed or haul­ing power, they were use­ful lo­co­mo­tives none­the­less. The ‘31/4s’ were ini­tially em­ployed on empty coach­ing stock du­ties in the Lon­don area, be­fore re­de­ploy­ment on sec­ondary ser­vices fur­ther afield. In­deed, the class be­came syn­ony­mous with a num­ber of ser­vices and routes in the 1980s and early ’90s, in­clud­ing the Leeds-set­tle-carlisle, Hull/leeds-lan­caster, Cardiff-portsmouth, North Wales coast and trans-pen­nine ser­vices via the Hope Val­ley and Dig­gle routes. With a few ‘OO’ Class 31s al­ready in my col­lec­tion, I’d yet to repli­cate one of the 31/4 fleet. So, after pick­ing up a rea­son­ably priced pre-owned Hornby model, I set to. It’s been pleas­ant to re­call those youth­ful mem­o­ries while work­ing on this project. The ‘31s’ may not have cap­tured many en­thu­si­asts’ imag­i­na­tions dur­ing their hey­day, but I al­ways loved the sight and sound of them rush­ing through Sankey sta­tion with four Mk 2s in tow. Mind you, when I won­der why I never made it as a foot­baller, per­haps I should’ve con­cen­trated more on the ball in­stead of those shabby blue diesels…

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